Spring Cleaning Tips for Digital Hoarders

Does the thought of searching your emails incite panic? Is your desktop a mosaic of tiny icons you can’t tell apart? Do you consider almost every website you land on bookmark-worthy?

Then you might be a digital hoarder.


Photo via Elle.com

Digital hoarding has become a widespread epidemic. With the ability to save everything, we’ve become paralyzed by a fear of losing anything.


As the obsession to avoid the delete button at all costs grows, companies are swooping in with solutions. Apple created iCloud, a digital dump piling up somewhere in the ether, and Gmail can’t stop finding new ways to sort your inbox.

In an article on Tech.pinions, chief economist of the Consumer Electronics Association Shawn Dubravac predicts the coming cure for digital hoarding will be “context awareness,” where systems will be able to prioritize files based on your taste and preference.

But the real cure may be to face the facts: digital hoarding is bad for business.

E-clutter not only causes anxiety, it also sucks up space on your devices, making them (and you) slower and less efficient. Not to mention more data stored can mean more electricity used (hello, carbon footprint). But perhaps the biggest issue is that you can’t find anything!

“The issue with digital clutter is that it can affect productivity and performance. Digital clutter can make it difficult to locate documents and can reduce the speed of an individual’s work.” – The Neat Company’s Jen Cohen Crompton, Weebly


So if your corner of the cloud is weighing you and your business down, it’s time for some spring cleaning.

Here are a few ways to sweep up the interwebs:


>>Take It One Step at a Time

Don’t know where to start? Make a list and spend a small portion of time each day working through it. (Check out BecomingMinimalist.com’s list of 25 digital areas to clean out.)

Zen Habits author Leo Babuata suggests “embarking on a massive digital purge — a half-hour at a time — then maintaining a simple digital life by trying to delete rather than filing items. He also suggests developing a routine of purging digital files weekly or monthly.”

>>Know When to Archive and When to Delete

Imagine the worst: your entire server crashes and all is lost forever. What would you be hustling to retrieve? What would you not miss?

A good rule of thumb is to only keep what you would physically keep. Would you hold on to that blurry picture of your dog half covered up by your finger? Do you need a hard copy of that email with directions to a cookout in 2007? Probably not.

Use those tools like the cloud and inbox labels to help you get organized. Backup or archive the things you really want, and then delete the rest. Here are some tips for organizing your Gmail inbox from Thrillist.

>>Cut Clutter Off at the Source

Two words: unsubscribe and uninstall.

If you’re constantly deleting emails from the same sources, just break free and unsubscribe!

The same goes for your hard drive. Update your devices and get rid of programs you no longer use. And deleting the icon on your desktop isn’t enough – you’re gonna need to dig a little deeper and uninstall.

>>Embrace the Digital Detox

Technology is awesome. But it’s important to disconnect. When you unplug, you recharge, de-stress, and reconnect. You might even find some clarity on what really matters to you, making that delete button a little less scary.

Happy spring cleaning! You got this!